As part of the Youth Devel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive Project at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, Evelyn Perez-​​Landron and her mom bonded over nov­elist Zora Neale Hurston’s epic tale, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

My rela­tion­ship with my mom has grown stronger,” Perez-​​Landron says, “and we’re better able to talk about what’s going on in our lives.”

The 18-​​year-​​old rising senior at Fenway High School is among more than a score of middle– and high-​​school stu­dents from housing devel­op­ments in com­mu­ni­ties sur­rounding North­eastern who receive aca­d­emic sup­port through the pro­gram. Founded in 2006 by the late Dr. Joseph Warren, the project also offers coun­seling and life-​​skills assis­tance to the stu­dents and their par­ents through courses on topics such as nutri­tion and finan­cial literacy.

The pro­gram is part of Northeastern’s Stony Brook Ini­tia­tive, which rede­fines urban engage­ment and facil­i­tates a net­work of sus­tain­able part­ner­ships among neigh­boring com­mu­ni­ties and organizations.

The goal of the youth devel­op­ment pro­gram is for each and every stu­dent to get into col­lege. Over the next two years, as many as 10 stu­dents have the poten­tial to earn schol­ar­ships to Northeastern.

North­eastern is on a short list of schools that Perez-​​Landron may choose to attend to pursue a math­e­matics degree. Small wonder, con­sid­ering the affinity the number cruncher has for the campus, which she calls “another home.”

Like some of the stu­dents, pro­gram coor­di­nator Carl Bar­rows grew up in the Bromley-​​Heath housing devel­op­ment in Jamaica Plain. He knows how hard it can be to over­come a cul­ture of drugs and vio­lence to achieve aca­d­emic success.

Many of these kids face so much oppres­sion and so many prob­lems in their neigh­bor­hoods that it’s really impor­tant to take them out of that atmos­phere,” Bar­rows says. “I really love seeing these kids smile and helping them realize that they can be some­thing special.”

Beth Gille­spie, S, SSH’11, who com­pleted a co-​​op with the youth devel­op­ment pro­gram as a parent liaison and served as a vol­un­teer tutor for the last two years, said she can’t help but notice changes in the way stu­dents approach their course work and interact with their peers.

Their matu­rity and depth of under­standing has really increased,” she said. “They hold each other account­able and want to achieve more than what the orig­i­nally thought possible.”

Gille­spie, who double-​​majored in psy­chology and human ser­vices at North­eastern, plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work this fall. But she expects to con­tinue vol­un­teering for the pro­gram, which, she says, has taught her as much about her­self as the stu­dents she tutors.

Vol­un­teering for this pro­gram showed me that I have a pas­sion for working with at-​​risk youth in an urban con­text,” she says. “It made me feel con­fi­dent in my ability to teach the skills that I have learned.”